Update on the probate service

We’ve had another productive probate service user group meeting with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), STEP, SFE, ICAEW and RNIB.

In our last meeting, HMCTS said it was anticipating a rise in probate applications based on a forecast of what receipts would be, and was putting resources in place to address this.

Although the volume of applications has gone up, on average it has not risen to the level anticipated. It has been a smoother increase, and HMCTS feels that its resources have matched this closely.

It can confirm its capacity is increasing week on week. The average number of grants issued per week during August was around 5,700, an increase of 500 per week on pre-COVID levels.

The majority of personal applications are coming through digitally and whilst practitioner levels have increased, HMCTS is still encouraging legal professionals to submit applications digitally, where possible.

It is easier to move work digitally to those who have capacity and can work remotely rather than delay moving paper.

HMCTS has a number of trainee legal advisers who have been diverted to probate and if deemed suitable they’ll be issuing the grants on top of the existing capacity which should further help get ahead.

Inheritance tax (IHT) queries still remain the highest proportion of stops both on paper and digitally. HMCTS cannot progress without the IHT so asks to either wait until practitioners have it back or stagger sending to HMCTS until the recommended processing time of HMRC (currently 14 days) has passed.

A considerable amount of staff time is used checking documents, stopping applications which HMCTS says could be better spent issuing grants.

HMCTS has received a number of responses to its recent consultation on non-contentious probate: mandating online professional applications. It's currently reviewing these and hopes to share its response shortly.

Read our response

Updated guidance

  1. Where you have applied using the digital service, whenever you send in supporting documents, whether as part of the initial application or if additional documents are requested from you, you should always use this cover sheet. Be sure to include the case number provided when you submit your application – this will help ensure that your applications are processed quickly and efficiently.
  2. If you have applied using a paper form, and extra documents are requested from you, please ensure you send these documents using the same cover sheet to the indicated address. The case reference number to use will be on any correspondence you have received in relation to the application.
  3. When you have applied using the digital service, the legal statement should always be signed by the executor(s) (grant of probate)/applicant (intestacy/admin will). You cannot yet sign on their behalf.
  4. Please see an updated version of the FAQ. Any changes made are in red, which will be changed to black in the next version and any new amendments will be in red.
  5. HMCTS continues to encourage firms to sign up to MyHMCTS if they haven't already done so. You should check with other members of your firm to see if your organisation is already registered. If it is already registered, the nominated super user will need to invite you to create your own account. If you are unsure whether your organisation has already been registered or you do not know your organisation’s superuser, contact MyHMCTSsupport@justice.gov.uk.
  6. HMCTS is looking for feedback volunteers to help it improve your experience of the online probate service. If you would like to provide feedback please contact probatefeedback@Justice.gov.uk. The title of your email should be "I would like to be involved in giving feedback about the probate service". In the body of your email, please state your name, your firm, your position and your email address.

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